As Marc Grimaud sits in the private room at the back of Café Gabbiano, low light splashes off hundreds of red wine bottles on the surrounding walls. It looks like Grimaud is in a vineyard cabin in Cyprus rather than the back corner of the Davidson’s Drugs complex in Siesta Key Village, a place he has been visiting since he and his parents purchased a house here four years ago.
When Grimaud was a senior at Central Connecticut University, he bought a snowplow and started his first business. Now the 30-year-old, who turned down opportunities for advancement at a $20 million production company in Los Angeles, will take over the Italian restaurant that has been in Siesta Village for nearly a decade.
“I always wanted to own my own business,” Grimaud says. “I just never knew what it would be.”
For his foray into the restaurant world, Grimaud plans to tap into his background as facility manager for a 60-acre banquet hall in Connecticut. After visiting Siesta Key, he and his wife, Laura, decided that the small-town feel was perfect for the family they plan to start.
“My mother-in-law lives in Ellenton, my father-in-law lives West Palm Beach and my parents visit (Sarasota) every three months,” Grimaud says. “And we wanted to be closer to family.” For now, his immediate family is apart as his wife packs their belongings in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Café Gabbiano, known for its made-to-order Italian dishes and stocking more than 220 different wines, had the solid foundation with which Grimaud wanted to begin. Peter Migliaccio, the previous owner and Grimauds’ family friend, wanted to sell the business to someone who would continue the tradition he established over a 42-year career as a restaurateur.
“It was just a really good fit,” Grimaud says.
Although the core of Café Gabbiano will not change, Grimaud will add his own flavor to the operational side of the business. In June, the restaurant will start selling “Sunset Baskets” filled with appetizers and a bottle of wine for those who want to spend a romantic dinner on the sands of Siesta Key beach.
“I don’t like being stuck in a rut doing the same thing over and over,” he says. “I like change.”
So Grimaud, a sommelier, gathered some employees for a wine-themed brainstorming session after finishing paper work for the financial side of the business. Out of the two-hour meeting sprang a wine-pairing menu that will change every two months.
Grimaud is doing a bit more rugged work today than analyzing wine. He has the sleeves of his white, fitted shirt rolled up while he installs a line window to connect wait staff with chefs at his restaurant.
“I’m here every day,” he says.
The presence of Peter and Susan Migliaccio, who started Café Gabbiano in 2003, is as much a part of a customer’s experience as the fresh ingredients, Grimaud says. “Peter and Susan know the names, families and usual orders of a lot of customers,” he says. “I want to make sure people will get the same experience.”
To that end, Grimaud has been flying to Sarasota for the last two months to learn how Peter Migliaccio runs the restaurant and interacts with customers.
“It’s kind of a bittersweet transition,” he says. “(Customers) say they will miss Peter and Susan but they’ll still be around — just on the other side of the bar (as customers).”
Although Grimaud says he misses friends and co-workers from his time in Los Angeles working for Deluxe Digital Studios, he goes to work happy every day at the restaurant.
“I used to think money was the big motivator,” Grimaud says. “But it’s not about the money, it’s about finding something you’re passionate about and enjoying it.”